Dr Austin Tay




It is not unusual that this is the time that most of us will be looking forward to starting on our resolutions for 2014. The need to be doing more exercise, less drinking, to spend more time with friends and less time on Facebook. For the past few days, economists are predicting what the financial world is going to be like in 2014. This makes me wonder, do all the speculations and predictions based on concrete evidence or the results are based on people reacting to the predictions? This, I am afraid is a question I cannot answer as to say that I am able to predict what the financial state the world is going to be in 2014, somehow in doing so, I believe it will make me sound like a charlatan as I know nothing about economics. Yet again, did we not all hear that most analysts (crooked ones) in the financial sector were speculating and coming out with ‘analysis’ based on something they plucked from the thin air which caused lots of debacle in the financial sectors in the past years? I reckon, with a caveat here, that this will be best left to the experts to deal with.


How about in the context of our own work environment? Are we able to tell ourselves to perhaps improve on our productivity, learn to reduce stress and cope with work? That is, not a prediction, but by consciously making an effort to do so. This concept of consciously doing things to achieve the result desired is nothing new, everyone will in some point try to do that or still doing so. However, when one is in a state of stress, feeling demotivated, trying to stay positive might not be easy. What then can one do? Let’s take the topic of psychological distress in the workplace.


Psychological distress in a workplace has been shown to be common and experienced between 19 and 30 percent of the general population of a country (Hilton et al, 2008). Remarkably, such common health problems account for a huge financial burden and loss of work productivity in many of the world’s national economies (Kessler, Merikangas & Wong, 2008; Sobocki, Jönsson, Angst, & Rehnberg, 2006; Thomas & Morris, 2003 ). Unfortunately, the prevalence of such health problems is pervasive in the workplace as in the rest of the population. One study has found that one in three workers reported suffering from a high level of stress and one in ten workers experiencing poor mental health for 14 or more days in the past month (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 2002 ). It was concluded in the Fourth European Survey of Working Conditions (Paren-Thirion, Macias, Hurley, & Vermeylen, 2007 ) that the second most reported workplace health problem was stress in Europe. Stress was found to have affected on average 22 percent of workers across twenty-seven countries.

What do all these mean? For starters think about with the daily demands of our work where we all need to be performing so that we will be remunerated and continue to be employed, it will be inevitable for us to experience some form of stress. Which is why the workplace is a valuable place to improve such psychological health issue. What then should be the right intervention here to ensure that one is able to control and reduce such stress at work? What do all these mean to an organisation? Stay tuned for my next blog post where I will discuss a bit more on the impact of psychological stress on organisations and to the society. I will in subsequent post talk about different intervention approaches.


1. Kessler, R.C., Merikangas, K.R., & Wang, P.S. (2008). The prevalence and correlates of workplace depression in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine, 50, 381-390.

2. Sobocki, P., Jönsson, B., Angst, J., & Rehnberg, C. (2006). Cost of depression in Europe. Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics, 9, 87-98.

3. Thomas, C. M., & Morris, S. (2003). Cost of depression among adults in England in 2000. British Journal of Psychiatry, 183, 514-519.

4. National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (2002). General Society survey. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/programs/workorg/risks.html.

5. Parent-Thirion, A., Macias, E.F., Hurley, J., & Vermeylen, G. (2007). Fourth European working conditions survey. Dublin: European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions.

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